Although the conflict in Darfur is no longer at the forefront of the media’s attention, violence there remains unrelenting.
Since the conflict erupted in February 2003, nearly 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have lost their homes. It’s a genocide that has devastated the region and left the war-torn country deeply divided.
The civil war in Darfur, Sudan, is a conflict between the Sudanese military, which employs the Janjaweed, a Sudanese militia group, and a number of rebel groups, most notably the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement. Over the past six years, millions of innocent civilians have been caught in the crossfire, experiencing horrific violence and indiscernible crimes against humanity.
Sima Samar, a United Nations (U.N.) human rights investigator, reported last week that Sudanese forces are continuing to arrest and torture activists and aid workers. Despite the fact that under current U.N. Security Council resolutions, air attacks in Darfur are banned, Samar reports Sudanese forces are continuing to carry out attacks on civilians. In addition, Samar received reports of arbitrary arrests, detention, and torture of human rights defenders and humanitarian workers by security forces.
Even though the U.N. has declared the war in Darfur a ‘low intensity conflict’ with 150 deaths a month, there remains a serious threat that the conflict will escalate. Today, the state of Darfur is teetering on the edge of catastrophe. Government forces clash with armed forces, while the armed movements fight among each other as well as within their own forces. The army clashes with the militias, and there are intertribal clashes. All of the parties to the conflict are guilty to some degree for the continued violence.
It is important that the situation in Darfur not be ignored. It involves crimes against humanity and those responsible for the atrocities must be brought to justice. As a member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, I feel strongly that we must remain committed to ending this humanitarian crisis. In 2008, I co-sponsored the “Darfur Peace and Accountability Act” and the “Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act,” supported House Resolutions that call for the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians, and I’ve protested at the Sudanese Embassy. But Congress and the White House need to ratchet up the pressure even more.
While the conflict no longer commands daily media attention, it is still very much real. I strongly urge the international community to take stronger action to help bring a resolution and an end to the violence. Those being victimized in Darfur have no voice of their own. It is incumbent upon us to hear and respond to their cries.